Plans for a total EU-wide ban from 2013 on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals are still on track, the European Commission insisted today.
Brussels has been accused of caving in to cosmetics industry pressure for a five-year postponement in introducing the ban.
But Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent said: "I can confirm the deadline is 2013."
He said the Commission was currently preparing an "impact assessment" on the ban, adding: "So it is really premature to talk about postponement: the deadline is still 2013."
A ban on the sale of most cosmetics tested on animals came into force in March 2009, with exceptions for products subject to three specific toxicity tests for which no effective non-animal testing methods were available.
The cosmetics industry was warned it had four years - until March 2013 - until the marketing ban was extended to cover such products too.
Now some cosmetics sectors want more time to find alternative testing methods for the most complicated tests - possibly postponing tougher animal welfare laws until 2018.
RSPCA senior scientific officer Dr Barry Phillips said: "The industry has known for years that this ban was coming. More should have been done to find alternatives to tests on animals. If companies can't make new cosmetics ingredients without causing animal suffering, they will just have to make do with the 10,000 ingredients they already have available to them."
He went on: "It's simply not necessary or justifiable to develop new cosmetic products at the cost of animal suffering."
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has tabled an Early Day Motion in the Commons urging the UK Government to work to keep the 2013 deadline.
She said: "The unnecessary suffering caused by the testing of beauty products on animals is simply unacceptable in a civilised society, and it should be inconceivable for the long-awaited ban on the sale of such products to be threatened with delay.
"The cosmetics industry is faced with a very clear and compelling choice: if companies want to sell their products here, they need to clean up their act and stop animal testing. The result could very well be a worldwide end to animal testing for beauty products, which would be a remarkable achievement."
Humane Society International/UK senior policy adviser Emily McIvor said: "Consumers and politicians recognise that it is unethical to cause animal suffering for products like lipstick and eye shadow.
"We urge the British Government to do everything it can to safeguard the ban to ensure that in 2013 the EU becomes the world's first cruelty-free cosmetics zone."
A UK Government spokesman said: "The Commission is currently considering the potential impacts and will report to the European Parliament and Council(of EU ministers). We cannot speculate on the contents of this report or any subsequent recommendations arising from it."